Philips Fidelio SoundRing review:

Philips Fidelio SoundRing

I ran a wide variety of music through the SoundRing and it didn't do quite as well with hip-hop and bass-heavy electronica. However, it impressed with well-recorded material like the "Caetano Veloso and David Byrne Live at Carnegie Hall" album. The speaker's good enough that it'll accentuate flaws in your source material and it benefits from the fact that AirPlay streaming doesn't compress your music files the way Bluetooth does (unless both device and speaker have the aptX codec installed).

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Power and volume controls are on the top of the unit. Sarah Tew/CNET

What's interesting about the SoundRing is that it's also a portable speaker. It has a built-in rechargeable battery that Philips says will power the speaker for up to 3 hours using AirPlay. That's not particularly good (the number doubles when you skip wireless streaming and go with a wired connection to the auxiliary in port), but it's nice that you can pick the speaker up and take it to another room or outside to the patio. The only restriction is that the speaker and your iOS device (or computer) have to be within range of the same Wi-Fi network to stream audio to the SoundRing.

As far as extra features go, on top of the auxiliary input, there's a USB port on the back of the unit that allows you to charge a smartphone or iPad when the dock's AC adapter is connected and plugged into a wall socket.

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Around back you'll find a USB charging port and an auxiliary input. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's also worth mentioning that Philips has a free iPhone app, DockStudio, for tweaking bass and treble. It offers some additional features, but it doesn't really add anything to the SoundRing experience. I was hoping for a firmware upgrade (I did have a few dropouts while playing music). Alas, while there are convoluted instructions on Philips' Web site as to how to perform a firmware upgrade, no update seems to be available.

In the intro I said to pity the SoundRing because it hasn't gotten its just due. Some designer put a lot of effort into this product and the company has failed to support it in the proper fashion. Philips would have probably been better off doing just a couple of AirPlay speakers -- this one and the high-end SoundSphere -- and put a little more marketing and support behind them. As it stands, the SoundRing a striking little speaker that delivers good sound but could use a little more TLC from Philips. I don't know if it'll get it, but if you can find a SoundRing for a discounted price (closer to $200), it's certainly worth considering.

What you'll pay

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